Summer is the Season for Photographing in B&W

When nature loses her colors, I focus on scenes full of shapes, shadows, and light.

Summertime can be a challenging time for taking pictures in nature. Nature’s summer colors are largely limited to yellow green vegetation and blue sky, and not much else. So at this time of year, I tend to load my film packs with Black and White (B&W) film. Let me tell you why.

Great oaks witness a veil of summer fog.

I love B&W photographs. Nearly all of the landscape photographers who truly inspire me create in B&W.  In my opinion, it’s the absence of natural color in a B&W photograph that makes it beautiful.  Or more precisely, it’s the millions of shades of gray that make it beautiful.

My featured photograph is a good example of my ideal summertime scene. I captured “Fog in the Forest” anticipating a much different picture when I left the house that morning. The heavy fog wafting among the oaks was a happy surprise (fog anytime in Virginia is a happy surprise). The bright sunlight shining through the leaves and across the landscape created an enormous range of brightness, from very dark shadows to delicate highlights. This moment in time really fit my criteria for capturing it on B&W film: simple composition, plenty of light, plenty of shade, and a bit of mystery.

When I select a scene to capture in B&W, I’m always thinking about the grays that will be in the exhibition print, not the pure blacks or pure whites. For example, in the exhibition print of “Fog in the Forest,”  only the deepest crevices in the tree trunks are truly black; only the brightest center of the sunlight coming through the fog is truly white. Everything else is a delicate shade of gray. It’s the grays, not the black or white, that provide the realism and sense of depth in such a scene, inviting us in.

The next time you stand in front of a large B&W exhibition print, take a minute and see if you agree with me about the beauty of the grays. I’ve always thought the term “B&W” for such fine art photographs sells them short; nothing could be further from the truth.


Technical note: I captured “Fog in the Forest” on 4″x5″ B&W film along Cannonball Gate Road in Fauquier County Virginia, scanned it to extremely high resolution, and printed it on heavy 100% cotton paper using a warm-tone pigment ink set. I then hand coated the print with an archival varnish. Prints are available up to 32×40 inches, framed or unframed. This title can be found in my “Pastorals” Collection.